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Rashes With Blisters

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Updated April 02, 2014

Blisters, or vesicles, can be painful or itchy, and they can occur with several common rashes.

Chicken Pox

Photo of a typical chicken pox lesion
Photo © CDC/Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald
Chicken pox is a very itchy rash caused by the varicella virus. Since the development of the chicken pox vaccine, we don't see as much chicken pox in the United States compared to twenty years ago.

As you can see from this image, the classic chicken pox rash looks like a dew drop on a rose petal. Not sure if what you have is chicken pox? View my image gallery to see more pictures of chicken pox.

Pregnant women with chicken pox may need treatment with special medications. Anyone who has been exposed to chicken pox, even if they were immunized, is at risk for developing shingles later in life.

Shingles

Photo of shingles rash on arm
SIU/Getty Images
Shingles is a painful rash that is caused by a reactivation of the same virus that causes chicken pox. The first symptoms of shingles are itching, burning, or pain that occurs on one side of the body in a band-like area called a dermatome.

The most common complication of shingles is intense pain of the skin after the rash goes away. Fortunately, there are medications to treat shingles and a vaccine to prevent shingles.

Poison Ivy

Photo of poison ivy rash on arm
Photo © CDC
Poison ivy, or rhus dermatitis, is caused by exposure to a chemical found on certain plants including poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

This well-known rash starts out with blisters and redness on areas of the skin exposed to the plants. The rash spreads to other areas of the skin that come in contact with fluid from the blisters. Poison ivy and other forms of irritant contact dermatitis are treated with topical steroids.

Herpes

Photo of herpes lesions on thigh
Photo © CDC/Dr. M.F. Rein & Susan Lindsley
Herpes is caused by one of the two types of the herpes simplex virus. The herpes virus works by infecting the skin and then staying around in the body to come back out and cause recurrent breakouts.

The symptoms start with tingling or burning on the skin. Soon, painful blisters crop up and break quickly to form ulcers. Genital herpes symptoms in women can be confused with a bladder or yeast infection.

There are treatments for herpes that can make the rash go away quicker or prevent a breakout from occurring, but none of the treatments get rid of the virus.
What Herpes Looks Like (pictures)

Cold Sores

Photo of cold sore on lip
Photo © CDC/Dr. Herrmann
Cold sores (fever blisters, oral herpes) are also caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once a person has been exposed to the herpes simplex virus, the virus is always in the body and can cause repeat eruptions. These breakouts are often triggered by trauma to the skin, menstruation, sun exposure, stress, fever, and other causes.

There are several medications that treat cold sores. There are oral and topical medications that can be used at the beginning of an outbreak to stop cold sores from erupting. There are also oral medications that people can take all the time if they get frequent cold sores to prevent outbreaks.

Dyshidrotic Eczema

Photo of dishydrotic eczema on the finger
Photo © Heather L. Brannon, MD
Dyshidrotic eczema, also known as pompholyx, is an itchy rash on the hands and feet. Many people with atopic dermatitis also have dyshidrotic eczema.

The rash involves thick blisters, that resemble tapioca pudding, on the hands and especially the fingers and feet. Dyshidrotic eczema is most often treated with topical steroids, but there are other medications that may be used.

Scabies

Photo of scabies rash on the leg
Photo © CDC/Susan Lindsley
Scabies is a rash caused by a tiny mite that burrows under the skin. The rash is red, bumpy, and often located on wrists, between fingers, in armpits, and around the waistline.

Scabies is treated with a lotion to kill the mite, but the rash can last up to a month.
What Scabies Looks Like (pictures)

Impetigo

Photo of impetigo on the leg
Photo © CDC
Impetigo is a common bacterial infection of the upper layers of the skin caused by Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria.

The most common form of impetigo often occurs on the face or limbs, and is known for its "honey-colored" crust. This crust often looks like small blisters. There is a less common form of impetigo that causes large blisters, called bullae. This form tends to occur more in newborns and younger children.

Id Reaction

Photo © CDC
An id reaction is an itchy rash with blisters that often occurs on the sides of fingers, but it can also be found on the chest or arms.

It is actually caused by a fungal infection somewhere else on the body.

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